Year C: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

They left everything and followed Jesus

Luke 5: 1-11

 While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As a disciple (a follower) of Jesus, what human attributes of His do you most admire and try to emulate in your relationships with others?
  2. How are you experiencing “being called” to step out in faith (put out into deeper water) at this time in your life?  How are you responding?
  3.   In what ways is Men’s Ministry and weekly faith sharing helping you to cast a wider net in ministering to others?
  4. Leaving “everything to follow him” is a metaphor for making Jesus the center of your life. In what new ways could Jesus become more “the center” of your life? Explain

Biblical Context

Luke 5: 1-11
Margaret Nutting Ralph PHD

Last week we read Luke’s account of Jesus’ rejection in his hometown of Nazareth. This week we read Luke’s version of the call of Simon Peter. Luke’s Gospel has several stories that the Lectionary has skipped. Most are stories of Jesus’ mighty power: the cure of a demoniac in Capernaum, the cure of Simon’s mother-in-law, the cure of many sick people, and the rebuking of some demons who shout, “You are the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:31-41). One story not included in the Lectionary is the one in which Jesus states the pur- pose of his ministry. Having experienced many healings, the crowds do not want Jesus to leave them. Jesus says, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43). Our Lectionary reading picks up the story at this point.

Today’s reading begins with Jesus doing just what he said he was sent to do: preach “the word of God.” The crowd is so responsive that Jesus is pressed for room. He sees two boats by the lake, the fishermen having returned from an unsuccessful fishing trip. Jesus gets into Simon Peter’s boat and teaches the crowd from there. From his point on, the characters on center stage in this story are Jesus and Peter. Near the end of the story those who are in the other boat will be named, but for now the spotlight is definitely on Peter. The preeminence given Peter is typical of Luke’s two-volume work, his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.

When we discussed Luke’s Gospel on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we noted that Luke is editing the inherited oral and written traditions of the community. One of the written sources that Luke uses in writing his Gospel is the Gospel of Mark. It is interesting, therefore, to compare Luke and Mark’s accounts of the call of Peter (see Mark 1:16-20). In Mark there is no marvelous catch, and Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law after he is called, not before. The marvelous catch story is familiar to us, not because it is part of a call story in another Gospel but because it is part of a postresurrection appearance story in John’s Gospel (see John 21:1-14). We see then that Luke has combined his sources in a unique way. What is Luke trying to teach by telling the story as he does?

Because of the order in which Luke has arranged the stories, Peter knows and has faith in Jesus before Jesus calls him. Jesus has already cured his mother-in- law. So, Jesus is not getting into the boat of a stranger when he teaches from Simon Peter’s boat; Simon Peter has already witnessed Jesus’ power firsthand.

After Peter and the crowd listen to Jesus preach the word of God, Jesus says to Simon Peter, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon Peter is hesitant to do this. He speaks to Jesus with deep respect, calling him “Master,” and explains that he and his partners have worked hard all night and caught nothing. Then Peter says, “… but at your command I will lower the nets.” Peter already has faith in Jesus because Jesus has cured Peter’s mother-in-law. Faith has faith in Jesus because Jesus has cured Peter’s mother-in-law. Faith is necessary for discipleship.

After doing as Jesus directed, Peter’s nets are so full that he needs help from the other boat that is still accompanying them. Notice that those on the other boat are still unnamed. Luke clearly wants our concentration to be on Peter. When Peter sees that they have caught so many fish that their boats are close to sinking he falls at the knees of Jesus and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus is no longer “Master,” but “Lord.”

In John’s Gospel the marvelous catch of fish is the reason that the disciples recognize who Jesus is (see John 21:1-14). Here Peter’s recognition of Jesus as Lord causes Peter to profess his unworthiness. As we learned last week, a call story often involves an objection on the part of the one called. In response to Peter’s objection that he is a sinful man Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Peter, like Jesus, will become an evangelizer, one who preaches the word of God.

As he concludes his call story Luke finally names Simon’s fishing partners and soon to be fellow disciples, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. He does not yet name Andrew Peter’s brother, who, in Mark, is called at the same time as Peter (Mark 1:16-20). Luke con- eludes by telling us, “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” Again, the wholehearted response necessary for discipleship is emphasized. They do not just follow Jesus, but Jesus becomes the center of their lives. They leave everything to follow him.

Called to Minister

Patricia Datchuck Sánchez

In describing what he believed to be the prognosis for the future of ministry in the church, Henri Nouwen   suggested that three roles ask for special attention: (1) the minister as articulator of inner events; (2) the minister as a person of compassion; (3) the minister as a person of contemplation.

By articulating their spiritual journey before others, ministers can help people to name their own religious experiences; such articulation also helps to break open the Word of God and enables people to assimilate the Word into human life.

Compassion, insisted Nouwen, must become the core and even the nature of ministry. Compassion is born when ministers begin to love, serve, and forgive others (and be forgiven) as Jesus loved, served, and forgave. Through contemplation, ministers discover within themselves the voice of the Spirit and a sense of hope they can share with others. Ministers also become able to recognize the face of Jesus in others, to make visible what was hidden and to make touchable that which seemed unreachable. When Jesus called Simon Peter, James, and John to become fishers of people, he was, in effect, calling them to be compassionate contemplatives who could draw their contemporaries toward God and salvation by articulating their deepest spiritual needs and longings.

The lake that provided the background for Jesus’ invitation to the first disciples was the Sea of Galilee (in Greek, Gennesareth, in Latin, Tiberias). Thirteen miles long and seven- and one-half miles wide, the lake was more important to Luke for theological reasons than for geographical or economic ones. The lake, site of many manifestations of Jesus’ power, would also be the site where the disciples were first drawn into the sphere of Jesus’ saving power for the sake of humankind.  

Jesus’ statement about catching people is more literally translated “you shall be taking them alive” (v. 10). Fish are caught up in nets in order to provide food for human beings, and Peter and the disciples are told that they will be drawing human beings into God’s net of salvation. Soon the disciples will also learn that it is God who will provide the food (Eucharist) that will nourish those who are taken alive, through life to everlasting life.

Surely, there is also significance in the Lucan Jesus’ directive that the disciples “put out into deep water” to lower their nets for a catch (v. 4). An excellent principle about our mission is being taught here. Those who bring people to God must be willing to venture into the deep, to unfamiliar and unchartered territories. In other words, the ministers of the gospel must go to where the people are and draw them to God, rather than sit back and wait for them to jump into the net of salvation.

Peter’s initial resistance is entirely logical; nevertheless, he surrendered logic and reason and, at Jesus’ word, did as he was told. Mary’s example, as well as those of Peter, James, and John, is offered to Jesus’ contemporary disciples as a lesson in the quality of faith and in the style of “fishing” that must characterize and guide their lives and their ministries.

As in the lives of the disciples, change happens to us when we are called. We embrace the conversion process

that makes us disciples of the Lord. All that God asks is that we cast our nets into the sea.


Patricia Datchuck Sánchez received her M.A. in Literature and Religion of the Bible in a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York. She has been writing commentaries and homilies for Celebration magazine since 1979. She lectures in the areas of Old Testament and New Testament Exegesis at national and regional Liturgical Conferences, and she teaches Scripture for the Cantor Schools of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

Among her many books and publications are “The Word We Celebrate: Commentary on the Sunday Lectionary, Years A, B, C” (Sheed & Ward, 1989), “The Gospel of John” (Paulist Press Adult Bible Study Program, 1991), “Galatians and Romans,” (Paulist Press Adult Bible Study Program, 1992), “The Passages We Celebrate: A Commentary of Scripture Readings for Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals” (Sheed & Ward, 1992), and “Formed in the Word: Lessons in Gospel Living” (Sheed & Ward, 1997). Patricia Sánchez in married to Mr. Rafael Sánchez. They have four children and live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.